Newspaper representations of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) and cancer in a Malaysian newspaper


  • Su-Hie Ting Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
  • Nursilah Kapiten Universiti Malaysia Sarawak



cancer, content analysis, hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), Health Belief Model, media, newspapers


The present study examines newspaper coverage of hand, food and mouth disease (HFMD) and cancer, to compare how infectious and non-infectious diseases are represented in Malaysia. The Health Belief Model was used as the framework for selecting themes relevant to health actions for the content analysis of 69 articles (32,808 words in total) from the New Straits Times. It was found that more emphasis was given to HFMD (51 articles) than to cancer (18 articles). The information most frequently included in the articles was recommended health actions (3.8 mentions per article for HFMD; 1.1 for cancer). The articles represented HFMD as posing a greater threat than cancer, as more information on susceptibility (1.6 for HFMD; 0.3 for cancer) was included compared to severity (0.5 for HFMD; 0.2 for cancer). The HFMD articles stressed the outbreak of HFMD: incidence and deaths, symptoms, causes and preventive measures. However, the cancer articles were usually not incident-specific and focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle to avoid cancer and to warn readers of cancer prevalence. Only 17% of the cancer articles carried treatment themes. The findings suggest that news coverage of cancer should include medical research and advances to create better awareness of cancer.

Author Biographies

Su-Hie Ting, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak

Su-Hie Ting received her PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Queensland and is currently an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, where she teaches academic English and research methodology. Her research interests include language choice and identity, academic writing, communication strategies and health communication. Her most recent publication is ‘Positive psychology of Malaysian university students: Impacts of engagement, motivation, self-compassion, and well-being on mental health’ (2019, International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction).

Nursilah Kapiten, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak

Nursilah Kapiten graduated from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak with a BA in Linguistics. Her research interests include health communication.


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How to Cite

Ting, S.-H., & Kapiten, N. (2021). Newspaper representations of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) and cancer in a Malaysian newspaper. Communication and Medicine, 17(1), 32–46.